by Ron Loehman, Conservation Chair
From the January 2015 Newsletter
Last month a small delegation from New Mexico Trout met with Erik Taylor, who assumed the District Ranger position last August for the Jemez District of the Santa Fe National Forest. Erik previously was the District Ranger for the Caddo-Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands in Texas, and before that he was with the Klamath National Forest in California.
Erik began his job as District Ranger shortly after the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse was listed as an endangered species. Much of the Jumping Mouse’s identified habitat is in the Jemez District, so planning and implementing the Forest Service response will undoubtedly occupy a lot of his time over the next year or two.
Our visit had the following objectives:
- Meet Erik and tell him about New Mexico Trout
- Learn about Forest Service plans / schedules for the Jumping Mouse response
- Begin discussions on potential conservation projects for the 2015 season
I believe that we will find Erik to be very easy to work with. He is personable, direct, and seems like he will be very much a hands-on manager. He has a background in the Recreation side of the different Forest Service specialties, which will be a bonus for New Mexico Trout’s interests. He already knew about the many NM Trout projects we have done with the Jemez District over the years and expressed appreciation for our good work.
Any on-the-ground actions related to the Jumping Mouse, other than the present fencing, will require a formal Environmental Impact Assessment and Statement (EIS). EIS documents are detailed plans that present a number of alternative actions, with advantages and disadvantages of each. Periods for public comment and agency response are built in to different stages of the process. Erik mentioned that they are planning for at least five alternatives in the EIS. This is a long process and the EIS is not expected to be complete before April 2016. The bottom line is that there will be no conservation projects in Rio Cebolla meadows for at least a year and a half.
We discussed our interests in trout habitat restoration and protection with Erik, but we were unable to learn any present Forest Service plans that we could connect with. Part of the problem is that there are no fisheries biologists in the entire Santa Fe National Forest, so there are no staff with that background to assess stream health and then plan appropriate responses. In the Jemez District, the fisheries responsibilities will be handled by their newly hired wildlife biologist, Chris Boone. With all the requirements for the Jumping Mouse EIS, Chris has a lot on his plate. I am trying to schedule a face-to-face meeting with him to learn how much attention he will be able to give to fisheries and to offer to provide him as much help as he can accept. We have made and rescheduled meetings several times. I’m hoping we’ll connect in the next week or so.